I’m making good progress with the first chapter of Social Media for Academics. One of the main features of the book will be a focus upon reflexivity – not in any sort of theoretical way but rather on trying to help the reader walk through deliberations about how they want to use social media and what they want to get out of it. I’m confident about this approach and I think that confidence is reflected in the encouraging reactions of my editor at Sage and the reviewers who looked at the proposal. But now that I’m in the process of actually trying to flesh this out in practical terms, this strategy is proving more challenging that I’d anticipated but in a really interesting way.
So for instance I’m currently writing a chapter about ‘promoting your work online’. The basic focus of the chapter will be threefold: what tools are available, deliberating about your own use of them and the broader digital and institutional landscape within which the reader makes these decisions. I think all the ‘practice’ chapters will have this format, though obviously I’ll frame and articulate it differently for each topic. However I’m finding it trickier than I expected to articulate the goals which are continually cited throughout the text.
One of the things I really want to do is encourage people to be clear about their reasons (“why do you want to promote your work online?”) and, through elaborating their particular motivations and expectations, help make the practical decisions about platforms and processes much less complicated than they can otherwise seem. But as someone who spent much of the last 6 years writing a PhD about internal conversation I’m not entirely happy with the abstracted and artificial feel of the goals I’m writing in the text i.e. I don’t think anyone actually says to themselves “I hope to use social media to better disseminate my work to practitioners outside of the academy” (or at least I hope they don’t) but that’s what I just found myself writing. I’d like to get the feel of the goals right. I’ve talked to my editor about crowd sourcing tweets and citing them in the text (which isn’t quite as legally complicated as I’d worried but is still more complicated than I’d hoped) and I’m wondering if I should start as I mean to go on. When I talk about the ‘feel’ of the goals, this is the sort of thing I mean:
I think it can be incredibly helpful to encounter people explaining in their own terms why they have committed themselves to a sustained practice and what they have got out of it. I think this is a really important resource to develop one’s own reflexivity in relation to that practice. But I’m also aware of the risk that my inner theorist starts asserting itself too much in relation to the technologist/practitioner capacity in which I’m writing this book. I think my work on the internal conversation could offer some really helpful insights that I can include in Social Media for Academics but I need to be careful that this becomes the practical book it has always been intended to be.
Another aspect of the book I’m excited about is the opportunity to take my experiment with continuous publishing to a new level. The basic structure of the book is reproduced in the ‘social media’ tab in my menu. I’m writing the book in Scrivener but all the research and working out of ideas will be done here on my blog. I’ve been working in this way for long enough now that it’s started to feel really natural to me. I’m not really sure how it will develop over the six months or so I’ll be writing the book but I’m interested to see how the writing project shapes my subsequent engagements with social media. As well as a well defined project with an internal structure, it’s also an organising point for my own thinking and writing about social media that will be continue after I’ve submitted the book.